White Noise and Sleep

White Noise and SleepI remember as a kid I’d always open some music on my old Nokia XpressMusic and leave it on my headboard as I went to bed. Sure enough, within the next 10 minutes, I’d be asleep – even if I wasn’t even actually listening to the music. On the other hand, when I wasn’t listening to music, I’d be on my phone reading long, boring news articles in a futile attempt to get sleepy enough to fall asleep. This is white noise.

For quite a while now, people have been aware of the phenomena that white noise causes sleep, but people don’t really know why. It’s been theorized that we’re convincing ourselves that the noise is soothing and relaxing, while other theories state that we’re lulled by the white noise masking the other noises.

However, a neurogologist by the name of Dr. Ralph Pascualy has another explanation.

It’s a fact that the brain naturally craves sensory input. It may be in the form of sight, hearing, scents, touch, or taste. The brain is so crazy over this input that in the case that it does not find any, it might as well create its own. Thus, people in sensory deprivation tanks hallucinate. When trying to sleep at night, the silence you experience as you try to fall asleep makes the brain restless. The brain is waiting on any random sound, like a passing car or the toilet flushing, to capitalize on an opportunity to wake you up. With constant noise, however, the tonal sound dulls the senses on the brain, having it less likely to pick up other inputs. The perfect balance of having a sound and almost no sound keeps the brain at bay.

Dr. Ralph Pascualy,

Neurologist, Northwest Hospital,


This constant white noise doesn’t have to come from a white machine apparatus used in hospitals. A simple ticking on your wall clock, or the dull sound of the radio from the next house might be enough to tune out your brain.

If you haven’t known about this phenomenon, try it out yourself. I imagine some insomniacs being very grateful if this method proves effective. Try playing some kind of background noise while you’re trying to go to bed at night. It doesn’t have to be anything in particular, but it should be something not interesting enough that you’ll be listening intently. In my case, it was the music that I played every night to the extent that it was boring – but it was sleep music, and it was effective at that feat.

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